24 February 2011

Booking Through Thursday: Something Old, Something New

All other things being equal – do you prefer used books? Or new books? (The physical specimen, that is, not the title.) Does your preference differentiate between a standard kind of used book, and a pristine, leather-bound copy?

If it has the requisite number of pages, isn’t falling apart, and doesn’t have an unbearably hideous cover, I’ll read it.

Okay, I’ll admit pristine new books are nice. There’s a certain thrill in holding a beautiful new volume and knowing that it’s only mine, that no-one else has owned it before me. But I also like holding a second-hand book and searching for traces of previous owners and wondering how it came to be in need of a home.

Aesthetically, I love second-hand books for the variety they bring to my bookshelves. Row upon row of matching new volumes would look boring; a mix of different vintages is charmingly eclectic.

Also, the need to give a homeless book is a really good excuse to buy it...

21 February 2011

The Sound of One Girl Napping

Ouch. Bad pun. (And I haven’t even read the book.)

Yes, it’s been awfully quiet around here lately. That’s because I’ve been feeling fairly awful. I’ve been plagued for weeks by some post-viral thing which has so far eluded explanation. I’ve already reduced two doctors to thinking it might be psychosomatic, and hope that when I see a specialist next week I don’t make it a hat trick.

So currently I’m not doing much of anything, aside from reading a simply enormous volume of Trollope which I hope will keep me reading long enough to make some slow headway through my review backlog before adding to it. (And making my cringe-inducing way through my first reading of last year’s NaNoWriMo first draft ... I am determined that this year I will edit it, but it’s a truly daunting prospect.)

I’ll post when I post.

08 February 2011

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from - that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

Two teasers this week! The first is from non-fiction, the second from fiction. It’s been a while since I’ve juggled two books ... but I have a still-unidentified illness and need the distraction.

And the teasers are...

The trouble was that Marie-Thérèse was dull. Uninterested in the arts, she formed a little Spanish-speaking Castilian world of her own, with her pet dogs and her equally pet dwarves, the traditional companions of a Spanish infanta as seen in Velásquez's portraits.

From Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of the Sun King by Antonia Fraser, p. 63.

The four on the bench watched him go.

"Oh Lord," Beynon said, and Freya Neustadt shook her head sadly.

From The Boys from Brazil by Ira Levin, p. 49.

27 January 2011

Booking Through Thursday: Heavy

What’s the largest, thickest, heaviest book you ever read? Was it because you had to? For pleasure? For school?

Since I love huge books, this is a tricky one to answer ... there are so many possibilities!

Probably the biggest I’ve read were my Year 11 & 12 Psychology textbooks - large, thick, and hardback. Unlike every other textbook I’ve owned, I read them cover to cover; I had enough interest in the subject to want to read more than just the sections I had to.

In the realm of fiction, perhaps the biggest and heaviest of all the big and heavy books I’ve read is Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. Or The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber - I read both of them in hardcover! I’ve also read enormous volumes by authors like Sharon Penman, Diana Gabaldon, Alexandre Dumas, Charles Dickens, but in paperback. Books in paperback feel much more compact than hardcover ones; if I can carry it in my handbag it doesn’t count as big.

Obviously I had good luck with required reading at school - I never had to read a huge book for anything other than pleasure!

18 January 2011

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from - that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

Miss Squeers had been spending a few days with a neighbouring friend, and had only just returned to the parental roof. To this circumstance may be referred her having heard nothing of Nicholas, until Mr. Squeers himself now made him the subject of conversation.

From Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens, p. 112.

16 January 2011

Book Review: Deliver Us from Evil by David Baldacci

Deliver Us From Evil Shaw works for the Agency, an organisation which does the things “civilised” countries don’t want to tarnish their reputations by pursuing through official channels. His current job: Snatch Canadian businessman Evan Waller during his holiday in Provence. In exchange for talking about his plans to traffick enriched uranium to terrorists, Waller will be allowed to return to his other sideline - trafficking underage girls. Shaw isn’t at all happy with this deal, but he isn’t in a position to complain.

Unbeknownst to the Agency, Evan Waller is actually fugitive Ukranian war criminal Fedir Kuchin. As Kuchin, he’s attracted the attention of a British vigilante group which has run out of Nazis and now hunts any monster it can find. Leading their team on the ground is Reggie Campion, a talented assassin who’s not about to let anything - or anyone - stop her killing Kuchin during his holiday in Provence.

I have a serious case of location envy. Provence sounds wonderful. Art exhibits in caves, fields of lavendar and sunflowers, colourful markets, a village filled with buildings rendered in the local ochre, sunshine... Can I just pack my bags now?

Okay, the book. You could read it without having read the preceding novel, The Whole Truth, and part of me wishes I had. It’s so hard to review and rate it on its own merits, and not compare it to the one before. But then, I never aimed to be an impartial reviewer, just to say what I thought and and give the grade best reflecting my opinion.

I couldn’t help comparing. And I thought it lacked most of what had me ploughing through most of The Whole Truth in a single night. It didn’t have the emotional impact. I didn’t like Reggie as much as I did the women in the previous book, and thought her reason for following her unusual career was rather hackneyed. And Waller/Kuchin is your garden-variety psycho, doing evil things because that’s just the way he is. Certainly some of his acts are memorable, but there’s little to make the man himself stand out from the general population of thriller-novel psychos.

But it’s still an entertaining read; perfect for the holidays and a holiday for the brain. I’d like to know more about Reggie’s boss/mentor/Svengali/whatever, Professor Mallory; there’s clearly more to him than has been seen so far. Katie James made a welcome reappearance; it’s such a refreshing change to see a platonic relationship between two main characters of opposite genders. I enjoyed seeing a softer side to Frank Wells.

And I defy anyone to read the introductory description of Alan Rice and not think of Julian Assange.

Rating: B-

14 January 2011

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Header image shows detail of A Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, c. 1776